Sydney development is a NSW election issue, so we crunched 30 years of government data
NSW Labor claim western Sydney is being “clobbered” by over-development, while the Government says it’s on track to meet the city’s housing shortfall.
The data suggests both are right.
The ABC analysed almost 28 years of data from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), who have kept records on the number of houses and apartments built across 36 local government areas (LGA).
Development in Australia’s most populous city is shaping as a major issue for voters ahead of the NSW election on March 23.
The figures show the majority of development is concentrated in Sydney’s west and south-west in councils like Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool, Blacktown, Parramatta, Bayside and The Hills Shire.
“These central business districts — like Parramatta, like Liverpool — are where people want to be,” said Nicole Gurran, a Professor of Planning from the University of Sydney.
“They’re well located in public transport infrastructure and certainly most of the residents”.
The Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) — a government agency overseeing planning across the city — has set districts and councils housing-supply targets to keep up with future demands.
The GSC has set a target for eight councils in Sydney’s south-west and west to build 39,850 new homes between 2016 and 2021.
Those councils are Blue Mountains, Camden, Campbelltown, Fairfield, Hawkesbury, Liverpool, Penrith and Wollondilly.
According to the DPE’s internal data, between July 2015 and June of 2018 a total of 24,048 of those dwellings were completed.
Camden, in Sydney’s south-west, has a target of 11,800 new homes by 2021 and has already finished 7,295 of them from July 2016 to July last year.
In the same period, the construction of an additional 9,436 houses or apartments were approved.
If Camden was to continue developing at the same rate, by 2021 the council would overshoot its housing target by 154 per cent.
The development rate of other western Sydney LGAs like Parramatta, Liverpool, Canterbury-Bankstown, Ryde and the Hills Shire are all on track to exceed their targets.
In the simplest terms, there are more homes being built in western Sydney faster than ever.
Comparing suburbs ‘meaningless’
Opposition planning spokesperson Tania Mihailuk said many LGAs in Sydney’s west and south-west had “excessive housing targets” and that if Labor was elected, it would make the GSC revise them.
“It’s not fair to exempt some areas from taking on their fair share while allowing other communities to be clobbered,” Ms Mihailuk said.
“This Government has given Hunter’s Hill a target of 150 and 300 [in] Mosman in the Premier’s backyard whilst Blacktown, Penrith and Sutherland are bearing the brunt of over-development.”
Hunter’s Hill — in Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s electorate of Willoughby — has among the lowest targets.
NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said comparing targets in different parts of Sydney was “meaningless”.
He said Sydney needed to provide 725,000 new homes to meet population growth in the next 20 years.
He said some suburbs, like Mosman, had 1,708 homes per square kilometre already — almost twice the housing density of Bankstown or Parramatta.
“A comparison of housing targets between these areas is statistically meaningless,” he said.
Professor Gurran said there was no appetite for developers to “acquire a mansion in Mosman”, where less than 300 new homes have been built since 2013.
However, she also said Sydney development could be more “sophisticated” and that, in some areas, it had “skipped ahead” of essential infrastructure.
“The key area I work on is affordable housing and I don’t think we’ve got that right yet,” she said.
According to CoreLogic, real estate prices in Sydney are declining at the fastest rate in the country, however in January the median price of a home was still $795,509.
Last year, the Premier said immigration had been allowed “balloon out of control” and called for a “return to Howard-era immigration levels in NSW”.
She also said “some parts of greater Sydney in particular cannot handle extra development”.
Minister Roberts said the Coalition’s focus was on increasing the supply of homes and “accelerating the delivery of infrastructure to support new housing”.
Ms Mihailuk said a Labor government would conduct a full audit of publicly owned land and create an “affordable housing land register”.
Property Council of NSW warns against putting brakes on supply
The Property Council of NSW has warned against putting the brakes on new housing supply in the Greater Sydney area, even though the city’s real estate market is officially in a downturn.
The Property Council of NSW has issued a strong warning against putting the brakes on any new housing supply in Sydney, despite the real estate downturn.
Executive director Jane Fitzgerald said that while the housing market was flattening out, the focus should be on putting the right housing in the right places to avoid a future housing crunch.
According to the Greater Sydney Commission’s housing targets, Sydney needs 40,000 new homes to be delivered each and every year to 2036 to achieve a target of 725,000 homes.
“Targets are important, and it is critical that the targets are reached by the right type and number of homes in the right locations in the timeliest manner possible,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
“We have seen the policy focus shift from housing in recent times which is worrying for those who want to see more affordable, quality housing built in NSW — a dip in the market does not mean we should also see a dip in policy.
“Last time we lost our focus on housing, we ended up with a shortfall of over 100,000 homes and an affordability problem — we have not recovered from this position with buying a home still out of reach for too many in the community.”
Ms Fitzgerald said there was strong social, environmental and economic evidence for putting the right housing in the right places.
“To deliver much needed homes our approach must be twofold, we need to ensure there is serviced land available for greenfield development around the existing Sydney fringe while also urbanising existing communities by building more medium density, high amenity housing around new and existing transport nodes,” she said.
Delivering more homes also means ensuring policy settings supported the retirement living sector and backed the establishment of a build-to-rent sector give renters a better, more secure housing option.
“We have seen over 10 major changes to housing and planning policy in the past 12 months with most coming from previously announced policy being repealed or delayed — this is not how we should be creating an environment for investment or good outcomes,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
The Property Council’s 2019 NSW State Election Platform, Six Steps to a More Liveable, Affordable and Prosperous NSW include:
CREATE TOMORROW’S SYDNEY
Sydney is a globally facing, diverse and appealing city.
It is a ‘contender’ city prominent against global benchmarks relative to its size and economic role. Sydney has reached this status despite underperforming in areas that are increasingly valued in global benchmarks as well as decades of under investment in strategic planning, urbanisation and infrastructure.
Over the past few years, things have changed. With the establishment of the Greater Sydney Commission and record expenditure on infrastructure, especially in road and rail, there is great scope to ensure Sydney’s strong brand is not let down by its performance.
Tomorrow’s Sydney will only be great if we make the right choices now. Choices that focus on how to grow Sydney well, improve the timely delivery of social infrastructure and engage communities in genuine dialogue about how to grow their suburb, town or city well.
By 2050 Sydney’s population will be about 8 million and growing. To ensure it is a great global city we need to focus on managing that success by dealing with unaffordability and congestion, deliver the Greater Sydney Commission’s 30-minute, polycentric vision and improve amenity and liveability by focusing on creating great places.
The Property Council is proud to be a member of the Good Growth Alliance, a collective of not-for-profit organisations focussed on making Sydney 2050 the best it can be.
Hold a Good Growth Summit within 100 days of the March 2019 election so communities, industry and government collaborate more strongly on how to make Sydney 2050 sustainable and liveable.
Speed up the implementation of the Greater Sydney Commission’s (GSC) plans and give the GSC teeth so its objectives and targets are translated into local environmental plans by the end of 2019.
Publish an implementation schedule for the Western Sydney City Dealinitiatives as well as quarterly updates on progress.
Expand growth infrastructure compacts and investigate business improvement districts, to realise a 30-minute city and support increased urbanisation.
Work with the City of Sydney to finalise and implement a long-term plan for the CBD that ensures enough office space is delivered, design and development controls are optimised, and quality development is delivered in a timely fashion.
Unlock serviced employment land in Western Sydney to encourage investment, provide local jobs and reduce the cost of goods through more efficient supply chains.
FIX THE NSW PLANNING SYSTEM
The New South Wales planning system is broken.
Research commissioned by the Property Council confirms it remains the worst planning system in the country. It is characterised by delay, cost, lack of transparency and uncertainty of outcome. It lets down the communities it is meant to serve as well as the industries that need a fair and predictable process.
Creating a transparent, fast, reliable planning system should be among the highest priorities for the next government of this State. The property industry wants the same thing as the community from the planning system – a strong strategic planning framework, consultation with the community and an efficient, effective and economical process that delivers high amenity places.
In greater Sydney, the strategic plans have been prepared. The task now is to translate the Greater Sydney Commission’s plans into the local context by the end of 2019. But, good outcomes can only be achieved through fundamental improvements to how the planning system works and a continued commitment to enhancing merit-based assessment.
An independent, certain and transparent planning system is a building block of better communities, economic growth and jobs.
Formally task the NSW Productivity Commission with reviewing the direct and indirect costs of the NSW planning system to reduce red tape and development delays.
Fast track the Western Sydney Planning Partnership, established under the Western Sydney City Deal, to speed up planning outcomes and if successful, expand the model to other parts of Sydney.
Introduce best practice code-based assessment for medium density housing (up to 10 storeys) once the GSC plans have been embedded in local planning instruments so communities know where and when housing will be delivered.
Expand Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels Statewide and ensure they are adequately resourced and have standard procedures.
Establish a single Government agency to coordinate the work of state agencies, modelled on the Queensland State Agency Referral Agency, as a one stop shop to reduce delays and increase efficiency in the planning system.
Introduce enforceable KPIs and timeframes for State and local government development approval processes and consider financial incentives for councils that exceed them, to be enforced by the State Agency Referral Agency.
ACCELERATE THE SUPPLY AND DIVERSITY OF HOUSING
According to the Greater Sydney Commission, Sydney needs 725,000 more homes by 2036 to meet the population growth we are likely to experience. To meet this challenge more than 40,000 new homes need to be delivered each and every year, Government needs to keep a clear focus on ensuring housing is being delivered at the necessary rate.
But, meeting Sydney’s housing challenge is not just about meeting the overall target. It is about putting the right type and number of homes in the right locations in the timeliest manner possible. It is also about ensuring government fees, levies, taxes and charges don’t further worsen Sydney’s housing affordability challenge.
To deliver much needed homes, we need to ensure there is serviced land available for greenfield development around the existing Sydney fringe. We also need to urbanise existing communities and build more medium density, high amenity housing around new and existing transport nodes.
Delivering more homes also means ensuring policy settings support a strong retirement living sector to encourage right sizing for our over 65s and backing the establishment of a build-to-rent sector in New South Wales to give renters a better, more secure housing option.
Publish clear annual targets to meet the Greater Sydney Commissions target of 725,000 homes required by 2036.
Reactivate the “Missing Middle” Housing Code in 2019 to ensure suburbs grow according to their existing character and amenity and the diversity of housing across NSW is improved.
Review and redraft SEPP 65 to make it plain that the guidelines are not an enforceable standard and so they support greater diversity of supply including build-to-rent and micro housing and support greater individual choice.
Commit to finalising the Greater Sydney Commission’s five to 10 per cent affordable housing levy subject to feasibility and roll it out consistently across the State and rule out LGA based inclusionary zoning.
Support the establishment of build-to-rent as an asset class in NSW through tax accelerators and planning reforms to provide more housing options for those unable or unwilling to buy a home.
Reinstate the Metropolitan Development Program to provide transparency about land supply and ensure there is a pipeline of development ready land to meet housing targets.
Conduct and publish an audit of under utilised government land that could be used to boost the supply of affordable housing.
Work with the industry to ensure reforms to the retirement living sector encourage confidence and increase the supply of appropriate housing for our ageing community.
STEP UP EVIDENCE-BASED INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT
Great infrastructure is the backbone of strong communities.
It helps build successful places, connects people better and makes our city work.
Key components of the liveability of any successful city – access to jobs, education and community services – rely on infrastructure to get us there.
With our growing population and history of underinvestment, the timely provision of economic, transport, social and green infrastructure is critical.
Record State infrastructure investment over the past eight years – topped up by Commonwealth Government commitment to city shaping transport projects is starting to make a difference.
This focus needs to be sustained and long-term funding commitments realised. Overcoming the State infrastructure deficit is a generational task and will require strong political and financial commitment.
It is imperative that Federal, State and local government work together and in partnership with industry to deliver an evidence-based outcome.
Sustain the current rate of State infrastructure investment to better manage the challenges of growth.
Support the evidence-based approach of Infrastructure Australia and Infrastructure NSW to determine infrastructure investment priorities and decide city and state shaping projects.
Hypothecate five per cent of transfer duty revenue into the Housing Acceleration Fund (HAF) to provide infrastructure to increase amenity and connectedness of local communities.
Prioritise the Canterbury/Bankstown Metro to provide better connectedness for this growing part of Sydney.
Fast track the delivery of the West Metro to link our growing Western City with the Central and Eastern Cities.
Finalise plans for the Western Sydney Airport north south rail link and commit to funding and a delivery timetable, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Government.
Lock in a long term, strategic investment in freight infrastructure that aligns with land development and supports our population growth.
Improve section 7.11 (s94) plans and establish a framework, methodology and benchmarks for local infrastructure to ensure the community, councils and local developers have guidance about standards and costs.
REDUCE FEES, TAXES AND CHARGES
New South Wales’ tax environment heavily influences our attractiveness as an investment destination.
Not only do we compete for capital with other Australian states and cities, we increasingly compete with international jurisdictions as part of the global economy.
Property taxes currently represent 54 per cent of state-sourced revenue and are the major source of income at the local government level apart from council rates.
It is property that is paying more than any other industry to keep the State’s finances strong. In total this equates to $20 billion in taxes each and every year.
It is critical that New South Wales does better to ensure a pipeline of domestic and off shore investment to deliver the homes, infrastructure and jobs that will keep our communities and economy strong.
Address the cumulative impact of property fees, levies, taxes and charges that add to the cost of homes by empowering an existing NSW ‘watchdog’ to ensure supply and affordability is not jeopardised by the overall cost burden.
Improve the transparency around the collection of infrastructure levies from state and local government as well as how those funds are spent and prepare an aggregated annual report.
Support growing communities by reintroducing an improved and indexed Local Infrastructure Growth Scheme to ensure they get their fair share of State funding.
Scrap biodiversity charges under new legislation until the cost/price impact has been determined by government and advised to communities and industry and appropriate transitional arrangements are in place.
Ensure that all the new Special Infrastructure Contribution (SIC) plans have appropriate transitional arrangements to ensure the costs are factored into the land price rather than borne by the housing supplier or home buyer.
To complement the future proofing CPI announcement, review and realign NSW stamp duty brackets to address bracket creep, ensuring fewer home buyers pay the top rate of tax and stimulate activity.
SUPPORT OUR REGIONS
Outside of Sydney, the Illawarra-Shoalhaven and Hunter and Central Coast regions are vital to the State’s economy and are also vibrant, growing and distinctive communities.
The Hunter is Australia’s largest regional economy valued at over $40 billion. The region is prospering supported by a highly professional and skilled workforce and strong education, health, tourism, manufacturing and defence sectors. This is underpinned by a strong and diversified property sector.
At the heart of the Hunter is Newcastle – a city undergoing a transformation, being revitalised through public and private investment with projected population growth of nearly 20 per cent to 2036, getting the policy levers right will secure the region’s future.
The Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions with Wollongong at their centre is becoming one of the most popular regions to live, work and play. It is the third largest regional economy in New South Wales with a mix of traditional and emerging industries.
Wollongong has a great strategic location. It is close to both eastern Sydney as well as the Aerotropolis being established around the Western Sydney Airport that will form strong links with Port Kembla.
The challenge is to take advantage of these economic drivers while still retaining Wollongong’s distinctive character and creating greater local communities.
Work with the community and industry to develop and implement region wide governance structures to help the Hunter and Illawarra grow well and protect and promote their particular regional identities.
Work with the community and industry to implement the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan 2036 and the Future Transport Plan.
Establish a Hunter Infrastructure Loan Fund to accelerate housing supply.
Build capacity and diversity at Newcastle Airport and Newcastle Port to support growth of the regional economy.
Commit to fast rail between Newcastle and Sydney to make commuting easier and boost economic activity in both cities.
Implement key planning reforms as outlined in the Property Council’s Illawarra Housing Affordability Research to encourage diverse, high amenity, medium density housing near existing infrastructure.
Complete the South-West Illawarra Rail Link (SWIRL) to link a booming Wollongong with Sydney.
Source: Kevin Nguyen, “Sydney development is a NSW election issue, so we crunched 30 years of government data”, ABC News, March 11, 2019. Amanda Sheppeard, “Property Council of NSW warns against putting brakes on supply”, News.com.au, February 28, 2019. “Create tomorrow’s Sydney by delivering the plans for good growth and high amenity”, Property Council of Australia.